“I wanted a real challenge, a niche I could make my own.”
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Favorite professor: “Roman Grillo. I learned the most from him. His histology class was identical to the one I later had in medical school.”
Advice to students: “Forget the money; find what you want to do first.”
A Keen Eye for Connecticut Art
As a teenager, Neil Pastel had a keener appreciation for surgery than most of his peers. After having his appendix removed at age 13, he decided the only career for him would be in medicine.
He completed a biology major at Adelphi, and was accepted to the Medical College of Virginia. “My grades weren’t stellar,” he recalls. “But my MCAT scores must have been pretty good, because I was accepted right out of my interview.”
He enrolled in medical school intent on becoming a cardiologist.
“We all needed to declare a specialty,” he says. “I wanted a real challenge, a niche I could make my own.”
Around that time, however, he lost his eyeglasses. After some feverish searching, and a few inspired conversations, Dr. Pastel decided to become an ophthalmologist.
“Your eyes are like the windows to your health,” he says. “Most diseases manifest themselves in the eyes.”
For 30 years, Dr. Pastel maintained a private surgical practice in Norwich, Connecticut. He performed hundreds of cataract surgeries each year, in addition to treatments for glaucoma and retinal and corneal injuries. In 2005, he merged his practice with two other physicians, and is slowly entering semi-retirement.
Despite being in school for more than eight years, Dr. Pastel says he learned his most powerful lessons outside the classroom. After completing his residency at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 1973, he spent two years traveling in North America, Europe, and Africa.
Extended stays in Italy, Greece, and Kenya opened his eyes to life in other cultures. And his experiences in Uganda, during the reign of Idi Amin, showed him the realities of human injustice.
Dr. Pastel came to Adelphi as a transfer student from Case Western Reserve University. A native of Malverne, New York, he returned to Long Island, where he became immersed in campus life. He was co-president of the senior class; president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-med honors society; and a member of flambeau and Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.
“At Adelphi I found good friends and great community spirit,” he says.
As he approaches retirement, Dr. Pastel devotes his free time to golf, skiing, and tennis, and proudly building his small collection of 19th- and 20th-century American painters. His favorite Connecticut artists include Childe Hassam, Emil Carlson, J. Alden Weir, and Willard Metcalf.
Dr. Pastel and his wife Kathleen have three children and one baby granddaughter.
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